I looked at the screen again, which I'd paused on the last shot of that green grass. "Oh," I said. "Okay."
It was just so bizarre. Here was my sister, queen of the overshare, holding out on me. Holding back. I was used to having to guess with some people, but never Kirsten, and I wasn't sure I liked it. She, however, sounded happier than I'd heard her in months.
"I'm just so glad you liked it. And had such a strong reaction!" She laughed. "Now all I need is for everyone there on Saturday to feel the same way, and everything will be great."
Great for you, I thought, when we hung up a few minutes later. As for me, I was still confused. And, I had to admit, intrigued. Enough to watch the film two more times, studying it frame by frame.
Now, as my father came into the kitchen, running late, and my mom jumped up to bustle around him, I brought my plate to the sink, running some water over it. Through the window in front of me, I could see Whitney sitting on a chaise by the pool, a cup of coffee beside her. Normally she was sleeping at this hour, but lately she'd started getting up early. It was just one recent change among many.
At first the shifts were small, but still noticeable. She'd recently become somewhat social—a couple of days earlier she'd gone out for coffee with people from Moira Bell's group—and had also begun working a few mornings a week at my dad's office answering phones, filling in for yet another pregnant secretary. When she was home, she'd started to spend at least some of her time outside her room. It happened in stages: First her door went from always being shut to slightly ajar, to finally being open occasionally. Then I noticed she was hanging out in the living room instead of shut away upstairs. And just the previous day I'd come home from school to find her sitting at the dining-room table, books stacked all around her, writing on a legal pad.
I'd been ignored for so long that it was still my tendency to hesitate before addressing Whitney. This time, though, she spoke first.
"Hey," she said, not looking up. "Mom's out running errands. She said not to forget about rehearsal at four thirty."
"Right," I said. Her arm was crooked across the pad, her pen making a scratching noise as it moved across the paper. In the window, her herb pots were in full sunlight, although they hadn't shown any sign of sprouting yet. "What are you doing?"
"I have to write a history."
"A history?" I repeated. "Of what?"
"Well, actually, it's two histories." She put down her pen, stretching her fingers. "One of my life. And one of my eating disorder."
It was weird to hear her say this, and after a moment, I realized why. Even though it had pretty much dominated our family dynamic for almost a year, I'd never heard Whitney acknowledge her problem out loud. Like so much else, it was known but not discussed, present but not officially accounted for. From the way she said it, though, so matter-of-factly, it sounded like she, at least, was used to it.
"So they're two separate things?" I asked.
"Apparently. At least according to Moira." She sighed, although this time, when her therapist's name came up, she sounded more tired than annoyed. "The idea is that there is some separation, even if it doesn't always seem like it. That we had a life before we had a disorder."
I moved closer to the table, glancing at the books stacked beside her. Starving for Attention: Eating Disorders and Adolescents was the title of one; there was a slimmer volume called Hunger Pains beneath it. "So you have to read all those books?"
"I don't have to." She picked up her pen again. "They're just to fill in the factual stuff, if I need it. But the personal history is all my memories. We're supposed to do it one year at a time." She nodded at the pad in front of her. On the top line, I could see she'd written eleven (11). There was nothing else on the page.
"Must be kind of weird," I said. "Thinking back, year by year."
"It's hard. Harder than I thought it would be." She opened a book by her elbow, flipping through the pages, then shut it. "I don't remember that much, for some reason."
I glanced over at her pots again, the sun spilling across them. On the other side of the window and across the street, the golf course was green and bright.
"You broke your arm," I said.
"When you were eleven," I said. "You broke your arm. You fell off your bike. Remember?"
For a moment she just sat there. "That's right," she said finally, nodding. "God. Wasn't that, like, right after your birthday?"
"On my birthday," I told her. "You got back in your cast just in time for cake."
"I can't believe I forgot that," she said. She shook her head again, looking down at the paper before picking up her pen and clicking it open. Then she began to write, her script filling the top line. I started to mention Kirsten's movie, and how it had reminded me of this, but then I stopped myself. She'd already filled three lines and was still going; I didn't want to interrupt. So I backed out of the room and left her to it. When I passed by again an hour later, she was still going, and this time she didn't look up. She just kept writing.
Now as I turned away from the sink, I looked over at my mother, wondering if I asked her about what had happened on that day, my ninth birthday, just a month or two before her own mother died, what she would remember. The green, green grass, like Kirsten. That it happened just before my party, like me. Or, like Whitney, nothing at all, at least at first. So many versions of just one memory, and yet none of them were right or wrong. Instead, they were all pieces. Only when fitted together, edge to edge, could they even begin to tell the whole story.
I looked at Owen, raising one eyebrow. A minute earlier, I'd been walking across the Kopf's parking lot to my car, leaving yet another fashion-show rehearsal, when someone screeched into the space beside me. I'd looked over, startled, expecting to see a white kidnapper van. Instead, it was Owen in the Land Cruiser, already reaching over to push the passenger door open.
"Is this an abduction?" I asked.
He shook his head, gesturing impatiently with one hand for me to get in the car, while adjusting the stereo with the other. "Seriously," he said, as I slowly climbed into the seat. "You have got to hear this."
"Owen," I said, watching him continue to push buttons on the console, "how did you know I was here?"
"I didn't," he replied. "I was just up at that light, heading home, when I looked over and saw you. Check this out."